This is the Amida
SUMMARY OF FAITH AND PRACTICE
(Dharmavidya, inspired by Honen's Ichimai Kishomon)
For those having a karmic affinity with Amitabha Buddha wishing to practise a religious life in truly simple faith, freeing themselves of sophistication and attachment to all forms of cleverness, the method of opening oneself to Amitabha's grace is the practice of Nien Fo with body, speech and mind, particularly verbal recitation of "Namo Amida Bu". This is not something done as a form of meditation, nor is it based on study, understanding and wisdom, or the revelation of deep meaning. Deep meaning is indeed there for the nembutsu is a window through which the whole universe of Buddha's teaching can be perceived in all its depth, but none of this is either necessary or even helpful to success in the practice. Rather such study cultivates secondary faculties to be held separate from the mind of practice itself.
The primary practice requires only one essential: realise that you are a totally foolish being who understands nothing, but who can with complete trust recite "Namo Amida Bu"; know that this will generate rebirth in the Pure Land, without even knowing what rebirth in the Pure Land truly is. This is the practice for ignorant beings and ignorance is essential for its accomplishment. This practice automatically encompasses the three minds and the mind of contrition as a fourth. To pursue something more profound or more sophisticated, or to have a theory, or to think that understanding will yield greater enlightenment than this is to be mislead and to fall back into self-power whereby the whole practice is spoilt. However wise, learned or skilled you may be, set it aside and be the foolish being completely in the performance of the practice. Nothing else is required and anything else is too much. Faith and practice cannot be differentiated.
The Buddha-body is delineated by the precepts. How deficient we are by comparison! By our daily difficulty in the preceptual life, we awaken to the presence of the myriad karmic obstacles without which we would already perceive the land of love and bliss, we would be as the vow-body of Buddha. Thus we know in experience that we are foolish beings of wayward passion. This knowledge of our condition is part of the essential basis when it gives rise to contrition. Thus all obstacles become impediments to faith unless we experience contrition and letting go. Saving grace, as was made clear by Shan Tao's dream and advice to Tao Cho, only comes through the sange-mon.
If you can perform the practice in this simple minded way, Amida will receive you and you may fear for nothing since all is completely assured. Dwelling in this settled faith you may then use your secondary faculties, your knowledge and skills and accumulated experience, as tools for helping all sentient beings. But do not then think that anything of relevance to your own salvation is thereby accomplished, nor that you are making something of yourself. Whatever merit there may be in your actions of this kind, immediately and totally dedicate it to the benefit of others, that they may enter the Pure Land and that you yourself may not be encumbered by consciousness of virtue which will only contaminate the practice. As Honen says, "without pedantic airs, fervently recite the Name." *
My favourite piece of liturgy - closely followed by 'I open my HEART to you......' prayer of all lineages.
My Dear Sister Sujatin, Thank you . Namo Amitufo
Thank you, Sujatin to bring this again at the foreground! I so appreciate the simplicity and humbleness here...nothing less, nothing more and.... trust. Namo Amida Bu and a kind hug, Katrien
We always chant this as part of our Amida Newcastle Services on a Tuesday (which are Morning Service! - and we finish with Evening Service when we have time)
very hard to conceive indeed Jiko. There is the relationship between belief and faith and how strongly holding to the former can get in the way of the latter. There is no defensiveness in faith but specific belief can led us to much defensiveness; somewhat an opposite to faith.
The vow which Dharmakara made which we hold most dearly is about how through faith Amida will appear at our death and lead us to the Pureland. The visions I have of Amida and various Bodhisattvas are of beings in human form. How it is for me, but from there would I believe that spiritual reality is about humans?
I suspect this is the same for many of us; wisdom comes to us through Dharma, the words and actions of other humans but also through dharma, the reality we perceive through our phenomenal world. We spend much of our lives engaging with the former through language and culture, we only notice the other teacher when language and culture become quiet. I wonder if they are quiet in death.
I recently had the opportunity to hear Roshi Joan Halifax speak in Hilo. She spoke a lot about "unknowing", which in Zen is mu-shin. This is a central tenet in the Zen Peacemaker Order and core teaching of Roshi Bernie Glassman. In listening to Joan speak I was really struck by how similarities between mu-shin, as expressed by Joan Halifax, and the summary of faith and practice. Our practice / life is rooted in Nembutsu, everything else is secondary. Our secondary faculties are not relevant to "our own salvation" rather they are used only in response to the fundamental reality of Nembutsu, which is, ultimately, beyond quantification: i.e., Unknowable.
Namo Amida Bu! Ananda
Thanks, Ananda. I always feel that Amida is, must be, beyond 'knowing' in any intellectual sense (to understand intellectually would bound the Infinite within the capacity of a limited human brain to understand - thus an oxymoron), although, sometimes, I have a strong feeling of connection. This makes me think of 'the Undying, the Uncreated and Unchanging' in the Udana Sutra. I've either heard or read Rev Master Houn Jiyu Kennett teach on this. All schools will have this understanding, though referred to in slightly different terms - this makes me smile. Wonderful that you were able to attend Roshi Joan's teaching!
A part of is text has been a kind of koan for me for a while now, perhaps I completely looked into it too much but if someone would be kind and speak a little about this.
"know that this will generate rebirth in the Pure Land, without even knowing what rebirth in the Pure Land truly is"
I really cannot grasp this one line and it always stands out when I read the whole text, what is without knowing ? To what extent is it meant to not know what rebirth truly is ?
I would humbly suggest that, on one level, it's about learning to be content with uncertainty.
What is the fact that '(We) cannot grasp this one line' teaching us ?
Perhaps we are the ones who are grasped, rather than the ones who are doing the grasping.
Thank you Richard and Mat, some interesting things to ponder there. Thinking on this more, I see it just cannot be rationalized with our limited intellects, it is then just Namu Amida Bu. As sachi said, go ask Amida , he is the one with the answers.
Namu Amida Bu